The youth continues to be one of the most vulnerable sectors in society, especially in the digital environment. For this reason, Child Rights Coalition Asia (CRC Asia), ChildFund Korea, and ChildFund Philippines, in partnership with TikTok Asia Pacific, organized a two-part dialogue and consultation aimed at creating a safe, inclusive and friendly digital space for children.
Guided by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child General Comment No. 25 (2021) on children’s rights in relation to the digital environment, the intergenerational dialogue between the youth, child rights-focused NGOs, and TikTok was organized to determine children’s sentiments and experiences towards their use of online platforms and the issues they encounter involving personal privacy, false/harmful information, and even sexual abuse and exploitation.
“The digital space is very dynamic and quickly evolving, so it demands a lot from us to be open to learn new things, but at the same time it also challenges us to hold on to the principles of transparency, solidarity, and of course kindness to each other because these are also the principles that we want to be able to share to our children,” says Amihan Abueva, CRC Asia’s Regional Executive Director.
The objective of the discourse is to proactively engage the youth in co-creating a safe, inclusive, child-friendly digital space. There were a total of 30 participants aged 13 to 18, with diverse gender profile and came from different parts of the country including Metro Manila, Cabanatuan, Pampanga, Laguna, Olongapo, Quezon, Zamboanga, Ozamiz, and Cagayan de Oro.
During the consultation, the youth participants touched on enhancing the terms of data privacy policies with a more creative and child-friendly approach. They also proposed integrating digital literacy in the younger generation’s curriculum and educating the parents as well. The youths also emphasized their call for the government sector, specifically the Department of Education represented by the Learners Rights Protection Office (LRPO), to constantly work with civil society organizations (CSOs) and strengthen law implementation in the country. The youths also shared that, while social media platforms boost their confidence by letting them freely share their own expressions of gender and sexuality, they still experience being unsafe on the internet as a public platform.
The participants were commended for proactively sharing their experiences on the use of digital platforms and for showing their eagerness to participate in achieving the objectives of the dialogue.
“I want to thank all the young people who expressed their thoughts and experiences with us. It was inspiring to see their awareness of digital literacy and their ability to take charge of it. This was a great avenue for us to empower more youths on the platform by building better and safer digital space for them. Moreso, the suggestions they shared will strengthen the industry’s safety policies involving minors and enforce support for local laws such as RA 11930, which aims to prevent online sexual abuse and exploitation of children. We are eager to continue our collaboration with the government and NGOs to co-create a safer and more responsible online community for everyone,” says Nathaniel Ong, Trust and Safety Program Manager at TikTok.
Also at the dialogue, child rights organizations, government institutions and TikTok conversed on the presented views and opinions of children to build more strategic ways in ensuring that young people have the opportunity to empower themselves in addressing online risks so that they can safely maximize the benefits offered by the digital environment
Other child rights-focused organizations likewise shared that they were encouraged to further improve their programming by leveling up their online and offline interventions that contribute to the development of children’s digital citizenship and in strengthening children’s agency in creating a safer online space.
Reaching to a consensus, all organizations and institutions agreed that they needed to closely work on addressing online disinformation, misinformation and malinformation and teaching children and youth on how to be discerning and responsible digital citizens; how to find the balance between maximizing digital platforms as a source of knowledge and how to make them aware of the risks while not restraining their own freedom of expression.
“The past days were such a wonderful experience. I hope there are more opportunities to engage and discuss with the government, CSOs, and tech companies to develop capacities across all stakeholders. I’m very appreciative of TikTok and I hope that this is not the end of this workshop. Hopefully we can bring this not only to the Philippines but to other countries as well,” says Jinyi Park, Global Program Manager and Communications of ChildFund Korea.